Cryptojacking, a malicious activity which involves mining cryptocurrencies by hijacking the computing resources of unsuspecting users, recently overtook ransomware as the the biggest cybersecurity threat in Africa, Turkey, and the Middle East.

13 Million Cryptojacking Incidents This Year

This, according to Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus solutions provider. The Russian security firm revealed that cyberattacks involving cryptocurrency mining have increased by nearly fourfold in the Middle East and African continent. There have been about 13 million cryptojacking incidents this year, up from 3.5 million in 2017.

Cybercriminals use malware scripts to gain access to users’ PCs in order to mine digital currencies, particularly privacy-focused coin monero (XMR). The malware programs usually run as a background process on people’s computers, without them noticing at first. However, these malicious scripts can hog up a lot of CPU power, resulting in the user’s computer becoming very slow. In some cases, the user’s device may even be permanently damaged due to an overload on their processor.

Cryptojacking Attacks Are Carried Out ‘Silently’

Explaining how digital currency mining attacks can be carried out in a “silent” manner, Fabio Assolini, the senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said: 

The META region is becoming more appealing to cybercriminals, with financial and malicious cryptomining attacks taking center stage. Mining is silent and causes less impact than ransomware, making it less noticeable.

Notably, the use of Kaspersky’s security software was banned in 2017 by the US Department of Homeland Security. The reason being American authorities were concerned that the Moscow-headquartered firm has links to the Russian government. Last month, Kaspersky’s legal representatives failed to convince the US Court of Appeals (for the DC Circuit Court) to lift the ban on the security firm’s products and services (for US consumers).

Kaspersky Denies  Misconduct Allegations

Commenting on the restrictions placed on the company, a Kaspersky representative stated that regardless of whether the cybersecurity firm decides to pursue legal relief, it will continue to focus on providing quality services to US-based customers and its other clients throughout the world. The representative added that Kaspersky has never engaged in any type of illegal conduct, and the company will comply with the appropriate rules and regulations in the future.

As CryptoGlobe reported in late November, the researchers at Kaspersky found that usually pirated (or unlicensed) software is used to install crypto mining malware scripts. Moreover, attackers prefer to mine privacy-oriented XMR because its proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm allows the cryptocurrency to be mined with users’ CPU resources.